Thank you for the music: Woodstock v Big Chill

Four decades and an ocean separate Woodstock, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, and the Big Chill festival, held in Herefordshire this weekend. But how much do they have in common?


Woodstock Campers at Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm in Sullivan County, New York, mostly slept in tents or under the stars. You don't need canvas when there's free love.

Big Chill Camping options in the grounds of Eastnor Castle this weekend include 15 "Yurtel" rooms in the woods. £1,300 buys you hot showers and toilets, cakes by Leon, tea parties and a goodie bag.

Woodstock "Eight months before the event, I had a dream," explains co-organiser Michael Lang in a new book, Woodstock Experience, from Genesis Publications. "I was on a stage looking out at a sea of people, and I knew that was coming. I didn't have the specifics of it, but I had the end results. I just followed that."

Big Chill A team of six works year round on extra-musical attractions such as the Words in Motion tent, Rankin Live exhibition, art car boot fair, Victorian fun fair, Bollywood dance classes...

Woodstock "I was peaking on mescaline and all I could do was pray to God to keep me in time and in tune," recalls Carlos Santana in Woodstock Experience. "My guitar felt like it was made out of a rubber band."

Big Chill Today's acts are more reserved. Last year's headliner, Leonard Cohen, has found Buddhism. This year's hot latest signing is so buttoned-up that he insists on being known as Mr Hudson.

Woodstock Nearly half a million unexpected guests and bad weather caused traffic chaos and a complete breakdown in sanitation.

Big Chill With 800 toilets, 20 units for disabled patrons and 60 urinals, none of the 40,000 Big Chillers is going to have to wee in the lake.

Woodstock Tickets in advance were $6 a day (or free on the gate, as no one got round to erecting ticket booths).

Big Chill Tickets for the weekend are £145 for adults, plus booking fees.

Woodstock National media at the time reported traffic chaos for miles around the site, imploring last-minute arrivals to turn back.

Big Chill There is a handy lift-share forum, in an effort to reduce the festival's carbon footprint.

Woodstock It was the first music festival to define the genre; it became a protest against the Vietnam war.

Big Chill More than 500 festivals are scheduled in Britain this summer.

Woodstock Nearly half a million people were there; almost everyone has since claimed to have been there. Even Radio 4's James Naughtie announced last week that he was at the following year's reunion festival.

Big Chill We think you'll find that none of the people calling in sick with swine flu on Monday was actually at the Big Chill.

Woodstock Campers were most likely to say: "Love your animal friends. Don't eat them." (As was written on a placard in one famous photo.)

Big Chill Campers are most likely to say: "Meet you at the Herefordshire rare breed organic posh snack stall. Order me the cheeseburger and easy on the Dijon mustard."

Woodstock Afterwards, many festival-goers reported feeling like zombies. It could have had something to do with the brown acid which, said a stage announcement, was "bad".

Big Chill This year, the Big Chill is aiming to break the world record for the biggest gathering of zombies for a shoot of the Film4 and Warp Films mockumentary, I Spit On Your Rave.

Woodstock They wore: face paint, plaits, flowers in their hair...

Big Chill They wear: fancy dress, designer wellies, or baby-doll dresses and Mickey Mouse gloves in the case of psychedelic drag act Jonny Woo.

Woodstock Organisers lost money on the gate; the people who raked it in were Warner Brothers, whose Woodstock movie has made about $100m since then, according to Michael Lang.

Big Chill The people who make the money are the ones who make the designer camping gear. According to a recent survey the average camper spends £220 before a festival.

Plus Ca change...

"There were five to six hundred thousand people there, and there were no fights, there were no hassles, everybody came together as a community and a family" said Michael Lang about Woodstock, last week. Well, war may not be over (don't tell Country Joe McDonald), but some of the other sentiments that characterised Woodstock haven't changed either. So raise a plastic cup of scrumpy to 40 years of festival tradition this weekend. And stay away from the brown acid.

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